Leinster Express Mick Mulholland political column - Gilmore’s awakening
So, according to the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, we are going to have an economic recovery come the end of this year.
Well, we will hold him to that! I hope the commuter belt regions, worst hit by the downturn, will have been suitably impressed!
The Tanaiste’s words will, no doubt, be something to think about in the long and expensive trek to work, for those fortunate enough to still have a job, in these bleak January days.
They might be something to brood on for those without employment sitting in houses purchased at obscene rates at the height of the Celtic Tiger madness.
And let us not forget those who have returned to forced exile after the Christmas break in Ireland.
They have the Tanaiste’s words echoing in their ears. with all the rest of the rubbish, false promises and abysmal failures of a wrecked Republic that have led, yet again, to the wretched return of that age-old Irish curse and social safety valve, emigration.
In a recent interview, Mr Gilmore recalled telling his Labour colleagues that in 2013 they would need to be talking and thinking about what post-recession Ireland would look like.
“I see enormous potential,” said Mr Gilmore. “The EU presidency absolutely parallels what we are doing, concentrating on jobs and growth and trade.’’
One hopes, of course, that Mr Gilmore is right. And those who greeted his remarks with considerable scepticism will be the first to gladly wipe egg off their faces if he is shown to be right a year from now.
Like most politicians, Mr Gilmore’s track record on predictions and promises is not exactly impressive.Remember the election pledge that it would be Labour’s way rather than Frankfurt’s way in terms of the crippling bank debt?
Remember the promises not to increase third-level fees and that retaining child benefit would be a red line issue?
Mr Gilmore may surprise us all, one year from now.
But the omens are not good.
Real economic recovery will have to see a significant reduction in unemployment, an easing of the burden on those struggling with huge mortgages and expensive childcare, more security for the elderly and a cut in emigration.
Otherwise, Mr Gilmore’s words will amount to nothing more than the verbiage of the deputy Prime Minister of a failed Republic.
Winning the economic war has to be the Government’s priority, all day, every day, in the coming year.
The EU Presidency is a job to be done. It should be done competently. But the Government is living in cloud cuckoo land if it thinks that it will be something occupying the minds of the Irish people from now until June.
Survival is now the priority for a people betrayed by those who caused the economic destruction of this country.
Being the poster boy or girl of Europe is cold comfort to an embattled people confronted by the harsh reality of the economic war which was not of their making.
The aforementioned commuter belt will be entitled to a particularly wry and embittered smile this January as they digest the statistics showing they have suffered the biggest loss in affluence because of the downturn in our economic fortunes.
An index of affluence and deprivation commissioned by the State agency Pobal showed parts of Meath, Offaly, Wexford, Roscommon and Cavan experienced the biggest increase in deprivation between 2006 and 2011.
Many of those affected are based about one to one-and-a-half hours’ commute from Dublin, where the bulk of the hideous ghost estates are located.
Some of the statistics are truly horrifying. The increase in male unemployment was as high as 250 per cent, compared to the national average of 150 per cent.
In the so-called boom years, the commuter belt received considerable attention from political parties.
They were made up of breakfast roll man and woman, commuting daily to work and assured by their political masters that the boom would last for ever and they would be taken care of.
They were, by and large, swing voters, part of new communities growing at a fast pace. Hence the new housing estates, where houses cost a fortune.
Hence, now, the ghost estates, a grotesque reminder of a boom that was never real.
Securing the votes of the commuter belt meant the difference, in some cases, of winning or not winning Dail seats and achieving that always coveted place in Government.
Like the rest of Irish society, the commuter belt was sold a pup. For instance, child benefit was extremely generous at one time.
But a more restrained property market, which would have allowed people buy houses at a more affordable rate, would have been a much better long-term option.
And when some commentators warned that it would all end in tears, they were told by the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to go away in no uncertain terms.
And so, in this dark January, we have the soothing economic epistle of Bless Eamon of Labour.
Is it all just more of the same?
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